After a long battle with Parkinson's disease, Lester Nance, of Arcadia, Indiana joined many of his hunting friends and their Lord, on December 9, 2001. He was born December 18, 1912, thus only 9 days short of 89 years old, and essentially all of it in his beloved Hamilton County.
Lester was a farmer that specialized in performance tested Purebred Yorkshire hogs, which he exhibited at the Indiana State Fair for over 50 consecutive years, and was well known for his enduring love and devotion to the TREEING WALKER HOUND.
Lester's first coonhunt was in November of 1926, and although disease made his body unable to actually participate, his mind was still with the hounds, and the many friends they brought him until his death. He had watched closely the Walker Foxhounds in his area that would tree game, not just run track, and in October of 1932 gave $13 cash and two bags of pig supplement for a 7 month old black & white male he named White River King. The name was used, because it was in the bottoms and banks of the White River where he and his good friend Ted Hosier (who died on the same day as Lester), spent their nights during the Great Depression.
White River King became well respected amongst all coonhunters of the area, and generated a whole new level for those that enjoyed the sport. Beginning in 1942, Lester contacted both AKC and UKC about starting a registry for his Walkers, but they were not interested in doing so. Finally, in May of 1943 the Full Cry Kennel Club recognized them as a breed, and White River King was the first recorded. In July of 1944 Lester advertised a litter of pups for $35 each, this was the first advertisement ever, using the words "Treeing Walkers". In this ad, he noted that he did not breed for length of ear, but what was between the ears.
After much discussion and several meetings, United Kennel Club did recognize the breed in 1946. But, as many of you know, they were registered as English Coonhound (Walker Treeing). They were registered this way until 1978, until pressure from the breeders, and a change of philosophy of the UKC finally gave way to the original name of 35 years before. White River King was again the first pedigree issued within this new breed, and thus the "ORIGINAL TREEING WALKER".
The first meeting of breeders to organize the first National Treeing Walker Association was held at the Nance farm in 1946, and was attended by about 40 people, including the entire Nance family, Russell Baker, George Zenk, Floyd Reeder, Albert Hopkins, and Stanley Knott. All would play important roles in getting the organization off the ground. The first National Treeing Walker Days was held the Walnut Grove School located about ¾ mile from the Nance farm in 1951, and was won by a son of White River Boone. Lester also had the first Treeing Walker Field Champion and Bench Champion. He also sat in on the committee that organized and designed bench shows, which is basically to same format followed today.
In 1949 Lester and his long time hunting companion Gleasel Harris traveled to Springfield, Ohio to the ACHA World Hunt. For those of a younger generation, this is when there was just "one" all breed national hunt a year, and it was by far the most important hunt held each year. When all the dust had settled, Lester had the first Treeing Walker to be called a World Champion in White River Boone, which he had purchased from Bernard Hole, and the Reserve World Champion was White River Rowdy, both Lester's and daughter Beth's all time favorite female, and daughter of White River King.
Perhaps the most important thing that occurred during this era, was that the Nance, Hole, Hosier, Harris, Dague and Emmert families have kept in touch and small children of that time now tell their grandchildren of the same experiences and relationships that the first Treeing Walkers made possible.
Lester stayed active for many more years, and produced dogs that were known to run track with the best anywhere. Many were used by big game hunters, and advertised as Nance Bred Hounds. Bob Marosock of Sheridan, Wyoming did much to continue the strain, when health problems began to limit Lester's ability to participate in hunts. However, at this point he had set the stage for breeders like Duane Clark, Jim Merchant, Joe House, John Monroe, J.C. Ellis, and others to take the breed on to new heights and accomplishments.
Lester's last active appearance at a National Event was at the Walker Days in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he was photographed with House’s Lipper, Nocturnal Nailor, and Rock River Sackett Jr. These were and may still be the three most influential dogs of the breed, and could all be traced though extended pedigrees, to the Original Treeing Walkers that he so loved. It also connected him to another generation of Walker breeders, McCallister, Dickerson, and Giddings.
Along with his registry and breeding accomplishments, Lester was blessed with three grandsons, Kip and Trent Gordon of Arcadia and Cicero, and Mic Newby of Carthage, Indiana all of which hunt as much as they can, and have some of the closest relatives to the "originals" as possible. They process the appreciation and drive that Lester passed along to them, and in their own way have contributed to the breed.
Daughter Beth (Snedegar), who can be found in many of the old pictures and records, played an active role in breed activities for 25 years, and has shown many Walkers to local, state, and national championships. Granddaughter Tricia has followed closely in the same footsteps. Beth could often be found curled up with Rowdy when she was small.
On December 20 of 1934, Lester married Imogene Carson, and together they spent the next 67 years. They raised 4 children, Alan Nance of Augusta, Georgia; Lou Lee of Tipton, Indiana; Ann Gordon of Arcadia, Indiana; and Beth Snedegar of Vermontville, Michigan. They influenced together, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Imogene could always be counted upon to have plenty to eat for both the hunters and swine exhibitors alike, and came to know all that visited them. Together they were secretary to the Indiana Yorkshire Swine Association for 25 years, and watched over the 4-H swine show at both the Hamilton County Fair and the Indiana State Fair. They had several champions, the first Certified Meat Sire through the Indiana Swine Evaluation Station, and were inducted into the Indiana Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame. They also found time to play an active role in the Republican Party.
Lester was buried under a stone the two had special made several years ago. Etched in the stone between them, is White River King, from a photo taken in 1933. The cemetery is located near a creek where Lester used to hunt, and empties within 2-3 miles into the White River, and about 4 miles from where King was buried in 1946.
Although no longer physically with us, he still lives in every "TREEING WALKER" put down on a track!!!!